Careful With Cleaners

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When I was a green tech I was really big into showing up all the other techs by doing THE BEST cleaning I possibly could. One of my favorite things to do was to clean the condenser until it was SPOTLESS inside and out. The only issue was, I really liked using that brown coil cleaner (that will remain nameless) in pretty intense concentrations (It was so dramatic to watch it foam).

One day I was washing a Lennox condenser coil and I noticed that it was REALLY DIRTY… it didn’t look dirty at first but the more sprayed it the more black stuff kept coming off… and coming off… and COMING OFF 

It wasn’t dirt, it was a coil coating and now the thing looked HORRIBLE. Lesson learned.

Cleaning HVAC, Refrigeration, Chillers and Ice machines is obviously not a one size fits all solution but all too often we as techs grab whatever we have on the truck and try to make it work. Here are some quick tips.

Read First

I say this in basically every tip, but if you aren’t reading you are ignorant of the risks and best practices of the industry. The manufacturer will mention safe uses, concentrations and hazards right on the bottle. Pay attention to them.

Careful What Goes in the Air

When you spray something on an evaporator coil, inside a case, in an air handler etc… you are putting it in the air people breathe. Are you 100% sure the cleaner you are using is safe for that use? Will it smell like the armpit of Lucifer when you do it? Either way make sure take the proper precautions to ensure you aren’t going to harm or irritate the occupants of the building. Can anybody say liability claim?

Is it coated?

Cols can be coated with many possible coatings and they all respond differently to acidic or alkaline cleaners. When is doubt it is best to use a PH neutral cleaner, that way you don’t risk eating off that coating (like I did when I was 18).

Nickel Safe Cleaners

Many Ice machines have nickel or tin plating on the evaporator. USe the wrong cleaner and you can permanently damage the evaporator. When cleaning an ice machine, use specifically designed nickel safe cleaners to ensure you don’t end up with a mess on your hands.

Be reasonable 

I see many guys use cleaners when a cleaner just isn’t required. You don’t need to use concentrated chemicals every time you rinse a coil, you don’t need to pump a quart of the brown stuff on your truck in the drain pan on every PM. Clean until its clean, but sometimes a rag or a soft bristle brush or a shop vac will do the job better than coating everything in layer of nasty chemicals.

Do a good cleaning… Just pay attention.

— Bryan



  1. Avatar Dale Adams says:

    A caveat is that the newer coils are denser and sometimes multi row vaccum cleaner…Really …Once surface collects visible gunk the internal sections of coil will be plugged also… Wash properly or let professionals handle…. Train your techs” proper cleaning is essential to correct service” 75% of calls caused by improper maintenance or lack of (40+ yrs in the field daily)
    Dirt is thicker than air (Always!!!!!!)

  2. Avatar Edward says:

    Great advice Bryan I have seen this many times. I use a shop vac 90% of the time on condensers.

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